This page is a chapter about me and my friends putting on a play of Rumplestiltskin. It takes place in America before I moved to England. This chapter isn't in the published book, because people at the publishing company thought the book should be mostly about the boarding school in England, not what we did in America before I went. (What do you think? Email But I kept this chapter on the Web because I liked it and some people who wrote to me did, too.

If you got to this page from the last chapter, I'm glad you like the story so far and I hope you keep reading! --Libby (the author)

Chapter II. Rumplestiltskin

One hot morning we were outside, trying to agree on what to do, when I said:

“Let’s put on a play — I’ve wanted to ever since the one at school. We could think of a much better idea — something kids would really LIKE. We could act it out it on a stage, with costumes and a curtain and an audience and all of us (instead of the dumb kids at school) as the stars.”

“Could we all be the stars?” Peg said.

“Sure — we’ll just do a play that has enough parts,” I said.

“What kind of a play, Lib?” Kenny said, but before I could answer, Pat said:

“A soap opera. I’ll be the Dangerous Woman all the ladies worry about.”

“And I’ll be the son who dies of a heart attack on the football field!” Neil said eagerly.

“But soap operas are so boring!” I said. It’s true, too: we always turn the channel whenever one comes on, don't you? “I want to do something kids will really like.”

“Such as?” Pat said.

“A story we all know really well — that way it will be easier to remember what to say — and all like.”

“What?” almost everyone said and then we all started naming stories.

These are the stories some people wanted to do.

Can you recognize the stories from the little pictures? Click a picture to make it bigger and see the story's name.

Kenny wanted to do “Jack and the Beanstalk,” but Pat said we needed a giant for that, and everyone else agreed with her. Jemma said “Red Riding Hood!” and Peg wanted to (because Duke could be the wolf), but the rest of us thought it was too babyish.

“Besides,” I said, “Duke couldn't eat the grandmother and it would look stupid without that part.”

Pat wanted “Sleeping Beauty” and Kenny said we didn’t have enough people and how could we do the hedge with thorns and the spit that stopped turning and then started again after 100 years?

To skip the argument, click; or, if you printed this out, start reading again at the round arrow pointing up. Do you wish you could skip arguments in real life?

Every time one person thought of a story, someone else said something against it until Peg said,

“How about Rumplestiltskin?”

“We have the right number of people for that,” Pat said.

“Yes — and we could really do the magic!” I said.

If you changed your mind and DO want to read the arguments, click — or, if you printed this out, go back to the round arrow pointing down.

Pat looked at me with an “Oh, sure” face.

“We could,” I said.

Neil said, excitedly,

“Do you mean we could really spin straw into gold?”

“Well — we could turn hay into silver; that would be just as good. We could get a pile of dried grass that had turned yellow for the hay, and Rumplestiltskin could turn his back to the audience and cover the hay with tinfoil. When he stepped aside, it would look exactly like a heap of shining silver.”

“It would almost be real magic!” Neil said.

Everyone else looked excited, too.

“So Rumplestiltkin is perfect,” I said. “We can really do the magic, we have just the right number of people, who wants to do Rumplestiltskin?”

Everyone did, so we divided up the parts. I decided to be the author and director; no one else wanted to be either, so there was no argument about that.

I thought Jemma should be the miller’s daughter and so did everyone else.

Pat said that instead of the miller we should have the miller’s wife, who would teach her daughter how to weave (not spin), then go to the King and say that the daughter could weave hay into silver. She said she, Pat, would be the miller’s wife, and they’d use the loom she got for her birthday. Usually, no one wants to be the parents or the teacher: they’re the ones who have to enforce rules and order, and it’s more fun to be one of the children disobeying the rules, so everyone agreed with that, too.

That left Rumplestiltskin, the King, the Queen, and the messenger; but Kenny wanted to be Rumplestiltskin and so did Peg.

“I’m sick of always being the Prince or the King, and Peg’s hair is short enough to,” he said.

Which picture do you like best? Which story would you like to act out? Click to see more stories and pictures.



To skip the argument, click; or, if you printed this out, start reading again at the round arrow pointing up. Do you wish you could skip arguments in real life?

I thought Peg would be better, and so did everyone except Kenny, but nothing any of us said could convince him. He argued back with everything, even when I said,

“But in the story it says Rumplestiltskin is a little man. It will look silly if he's taller than the King.”

“No one will notice that I'm taller than Peg. And in case they did, she could be sitting on the throne. That's where the King should be, anyway.”

“The King can't sit down the whole time,” I said.

“Why not?”

While I was trying to think of a reason, Peg said,

“It was my idea: I should get the part I want.”

But he didn't agree with that, either. Finally we voted.

“Who votes for Peg to be Rumplestiltskin?” I said.

Peg, Pat, Neil, Jemma, and I raised our hands.

“Who votes for Kenny to be Rumplestiltskin?” I said.

Only Kenny raised his hand.

“Majority rules,” Pat said, and Kenny couldn’t argue with that — he's always saying it to us.

“That leaves the messenger,” I said.

“That can be me,” Neil said. “And I can operate the curtain, too.”

We decided to plan the rest in the Loft (the attic of our garage), to keep it private. It was very hot in the Loft, and some people complained about this and said we should have brought Kool-Aid.

“Let's have refreshments — free — at the play,” I said, and everyone agreed. We decided to use our front porch for the stage.Pat said she had some ideas for costumes already; of course, she would make the costumes, we didnt need to even talk about that. Jemma said she’d cut out and color tickets. I said if we brought all the picnic benches from all of our houses, there would be enough seats for the whole audience.

Whole audience! Who?” Pat said.

“All the little kids on Great Oak Lane,” I said. “I’ll invite them — and little kids from other streets, too. I’ll do it right now.”

The others, I said, could start getting set up while I was gone. Peg and Kenny said that they’d get the grass:

“If we can’t find any, I can always cut some,” Kenny said. “My mother’s at work.”

I went first to the Johnson’s, skipping the house and going straight to the big back yard where Nancy, Joyce, and Hollis were (as usual) cleaning their playhouse.

“Guess what!” I shouted. “We’re putting on a play, a play children will really LIKE, and you’re all invited. The play won’t be like the ones in school — I’m directing it. And we’re going to have a real curtain, costumes, free refreshments, and tickets.”

I think Nancy wanted to come, but before she could answer, her little sisters quickly said no.

Hollis hasn’t come to our house since my brother’s fourth birthday party when some boys threw her into the pricker bush and she went home crying.

Joyce started screaming right in the middle of a game: “Stop, stop! A diamond ring has been lost!” The ring was just from a bubble-gum machine, but she made everyone stop playing to look for it, and when we couldn’t find it, she went home crying, too. I hate girls like that.

“What about you, Nancy? Wouldn’t you like to come?”

“I have to watch Hollis and Joyce,” Nancy said.

She always has to watch her little sisters; she never seems to have any fun.

“Well, just this once, couldn’t your mother watch them?” I said.

Nancy stood on one leg and looked unhappy.

“You could at least ask,” I said. “I know you’d like the play.”

Just then Mrs.Johnson, who doesn’t like me very much, stuck her head out a window; she’d probably been spying on the whole conversation.

“For goodness sakes, let the children alone, Libby,” she said. “Nancy, come in the house — I want to talk to you.”

I know it’s rude to criticize people’s families to them, so I didn’t say anything; I just left, thinking how glad I was that Mrs. Johnson wasn’t my mother.

Next I went to the Alzamooras, where I found Ricky, a small child with dark worried eyes and thin legs, going under the sprinkler by himself.

“Guess what! We’re putting on a play and we want you to come — not Anita or your brother, just you. It’s a play especially for children, and I’m directing it.”

I told him all about it, and at the end he said,

“I’d like to come, but I don’t have twenty-five cents.”

“Ask your parents — or your brother.”

“I could ask, I guess,” he said, kind of unhappily, as though he thought the answer would be no.

“They’ll give it to you,” I said. “And I don’t need it now, anyway; it’s for the tickets, and we’re going to sell them at the door, too.”

Next, I was going to go to the Pearsons; but I couldn’t see anybody in the yard, and I dont really know them, so I went home.

Kenny was throwing grass at Jemma and Pat while Pat shouted at him to stop, she was trying to show Jemma how to work the loom.

“Who’s coming?” Pat said.

“So far, Ricky Alzamoora, if he can get twenty-five cents.”

“We can’t put on a play for one person!” Pat sounded horrified.

“I know,” I said. “But more will come, I’m sure. I’m positive they will.”

“Our mothers would come,” said Peg.

“No grown-ups,” I said quickly.

“We don't need mothers,” Kenny said at the same time.

“I’ll invite the Pearsons if someone will come with me,” I said. “After all, there are six of them, counting the baby.”

“It could be the baby in the play!” Neil said.

We talked about it, but decided that it might cry and that a baby doll would be better.

“Who wants to come with me?”

No one did, so I brought Jemma — she’s in Mark Pearson’s class at school. I led her up the Pearsons front steps, pushed the bell (it rang very loudly) and then we waited. After a long time, we heard footsteps and screaming and Mrs.Pearson, who hardly ever comes out of the house, opened the door.

She had a white rag over her ears and around her head. Mark (the oldest) and his mother said hello to us. The little brothers just stared.

I told them about the play. Mark listened very seriously, nodding his head, which is a large one for someone his age and size, every now and then. I said it was nothing like the plays at school, but something that kids would really LIKE, I knew because we’d picked the story ourselves and I was directing it.

Then Mark looked happy and said he’d like to come. Mrs.Pearson looked happy, too, as she asked if the children were all invited, and even happier when I said yes. And then she said:

“What do you say, boys?”

I hate it when parents remind their children to say thank you and things in front of other people — why can’t they wait and do it in private?

“Oh, they don’t need to thank me,” I said. “Anyway it costs 25 cents each.”

After that we all worked hard.

I invited more people to come. I went back to the Alzamooras so many times that Ricky’s older brother told me to “stop poisoning the child’s mind for 25 cents.” So I tried to only go over there when Ricky was by himself.

Pat made beautiful costumes — the first things we saw were a long golden cape for the King and a shorter green one for the messenger that were just perfect. She said the Rumplestiltskin costume was a surprise and we’d see it the day of the play, and no matter how people asked, she just said,

“You’ll see.”

We carried arm loads of grass from the Tampones’ lawn mower basket (Pat persuaded her father to mow the lawn after work) and then spread it on a beach towel in our backyard, so the sun would dry it and turn it yellow.

Pat cut a crown for Kenny out of cardboard, and covered it with tin foil.

For programs, Peg and Jemma folded pieces of paper in half; Peg wrote Rumplestiltskin on the outside, and on the inside, STARRING and then the names of the characters and the actors. Jemma drew pictures on all of them.

We all took turns cutting my father’s shirt cardboard into tickets (the cardboard is thin enough to cut, but the scissors hurt your hands after awhile). When we had 50 ticket-size pieces, Peg wrote Rumplestiltskin and 25c on the white side of each one (actually what she wrote was R but everyone would know what it stood for).

Getting the curtain to stay up was the hardest.

Kenny and I shinned up the porch pillars, and Peg threw Kenny one end of the rope and me the other. We pulled it really tight, then each tied our end around the pillar.

But when Peg and Pat threw the sheets up to us and we pulled them over the rope, the rope sagged in the middle. And after awhile the whole thing just slid to the ground.

We tried again, with tighter knots, and the same thing happened.

“The curtain’s loosening the knots and dragging the rope down,” Neil said.

“Use slip knots!” Pat said. “When you pull on them, they get tighter, not looser.”

Pat does think of good ideas sometimes. I should have thought of that one myself: I always use slip knots to lassoo things.

So we untied the knots on both sides and I shinned up the pillar and made a slip knot at the very top and Pat gave the rope a little tug and sure enough, it got tighter, not looser.

Then Kenny did the same thing on the other side and after that the curtain stayed up!

Kenny and Peg opened and closed the curtain from the porch while the rest of us watched from the front lawn.

“It still sags a little in the middle,” Pat said.

“But it will be open for most of the play, so that won’t really matter,” I said. “With the curtain, it looks just like a real stage, doesn’t it?”

Everyone agreed that it did.

Really, our porch couldn’t have been better for a play — it has two big white pillars in front, steps on three sides, and no railings. From the lawn, it looked dramatic, especially with a curtain. A pricker bush hides one set of side steps — perfect for a dressing room. When people weren’t on stage, I said, they could hide behind the pricker bush and no one in the audience would be able to see them until they walked up the side steps and appeared the stage.

“Try it! I’ll be the audience.”

When they were all behind the bush, you couldn’t see any of them from the lawn and I said so.

Pat said,

“It’s too crowded with all of us squished between the pricker bush and the house — can’t we just come on through the front door?”

“Opening and closing the front door — (with people able to see into our living-room! — would ruin the whole effect,” I said.

Everyone else agreed: and as Neil said, they wouldn’t ever all be there at the same time, because someone would always be on the stage. So it wouldn’t be too crowded.

Finally we were all set up and could start rehearsing.

I said that I’d read a small part of the story out loud, and then people would act it out until they remembered what to say.

At first, while Pat and Jemma were doing the weaving scene, there was a lot of noise from the dressing room.

“During the play, everyone in the dressing-room will have to be quiet, or people in the audience won’t be able to hear the play,” I said.

“Don’t worry, we will,” Kenny said: but all during the rehearsal I could hear him and Peg whispering and giggling.

When Kenny came on, he made the King talk like a beatnik. He kept saying “crazy, Daddy-o!” and calling Pat and Jemma “you cats” or “you chicks.” I told him not to and he said,

“What’s wrong with having some funny parts?”

“Nothing — if they’re funny,” I said. “But a King saying ‘crazy, daddy-o’ is just silly.”

“The King should be serious,” Peg said. “Otherwise it won’t be a real play.”

She looked worried.

“He’s just teasing us,” Pat said. “If we ignore it, he’ll stop.”

We went on with that scene, and after awhile, he did stop; but I was afraid he’d do it on the day of the play.

And then there were all the fights. While Rumplestiltskin and the girl were the only ones on stage, Pat said,

“Kenny shoved me into the pricker bush and the prickers cut me.”

“It was an accident,” Kenny said. “Anyway, it’s only a little scratch, barely bleeding.”

She said he had done it on purpose. Peg said he hadn't and that started a fight between Peg and Pat worse than the original fight between Pat and Kenny. I finally quieted them down and then I said we’d NEVER finish rehearsing if we had to keep stopping because of a fight. Everyone could see that this was true.

I made them all promise that once I had finished reading a part and people were acting it out, NO ONE ELSE could talk at all — even me — unless I really needed to make a correction.

This promise lasted until Peg was singing the song and Neil (the messenger) was hiding behind a pillar and the three in the dressing-room all burst out laughing.

“Be quiet!” I said. “You promised.”

“We didn’t promise not to laugh,” Kenny said.

Peg stopped dancing; she looked upset.

“Never mind, Peg,” Neil said. “It’s probably MEANT to be funny.”

“Libby just said it was supposed to be serious,” Kenny said.

“I said the King was.”

“Some parts can be funny,” Pat said. “This is one of those parts — the book says Rumplestiltskin looked ‘ridiculous’ when he was dancing.”

“Does it, Libby?” Peg said.











If you changed your mind and DO want to read the arguments, click — or, if you printed this out, go back to the round arrow on the last page.

I read the part from the book out loud again (starting from ‘a ridiculous little man was…’) and she looked relieved. After that, things went well until the miller’s daughter (who’s married the King and become the Queen by then), had to guess Rumplestiltskin’s name.

Peg said,

“Now, Mistress Queen, what is my name?” and Jemma said,


“No, no, Jemma — you guess the wrong name first,” I said. “Say, ‘Is your name Conrad?’ ”

“Is your name Conrad?” Jemma said.

“No,” Peg said.

“Now Jemma say ‘Is your name Harry?’ ”

“Is your name Harry?” Jemma said.

“No,” Peg said.

Now, you say, ‘Perhaps your name is Rumplestiltskin?’ ”I said.

Every time, she got it right when she repeated each line after me, but when they were doing the scene by themselves, when Peg first said

“Now, Mistress Queen, what is my name?”

Jemma would always say,


“Maybe she could just say that,” Peg said.

“No, no — it’s not as good if she guesses it right away,” I said.

“Why not?”

I thought.

“I don’t know, it just isn’t; maybe it’s more suspenseful with the two wrong guesses.”

“I’m getting sick of this,” Kenny said. “How many times are we going to do this part, anyway?”

I said Jemma and I could practice it in our room at night and we spent the rest of that day chopping down trees (well, really they were branches from our hedge) to use in the forest scene.

The next day it rained and it was so grey and dark outside that we had to have the light on in our room in the middle of the day. We made a tent with the special colored blanket we have when we’re sick and put the lamp inside. Jemma thought it would be fun to paint in the tent. I did too — big advertisements for the play, with pictures of the characters and our names in big letters underneath — but we couldn’t get the drawer where we keep our papers and paints and scissors and crayons open.

Finally, after tugging at one handle so hard that we pulled it off and then screwing it back in as well as we could we got our Mother. We have to ask before we can paint inside, anyway. She tugged from the bottom of the drawer instead of from the handle and the drawer opened: Drawings and paintings and stories and cut-outs spilled out and slid onto the floor like a slow waterfall.

“My goodness!” our Mother said. “Children, I think you should sort through this drawer and throw out a few things.”

“Oh, do we have to?”

“But we were just going to paint posters for our play!”

“You can paint AFTER you’ve thrown out” — she hesitated, then knelt down and took out two big piles: “about that many papers each.”

She gave one pile to Jemma and one to me.

“I’ll come back to check on you in fifteen minutes.”

We sat down on the floor and started taking things out of the drawer — it was kind of fun. I found some chapters of the Crazy Old Witch story I write. It’s about a silly witch who’s always trying to catch kids but never can, because she’s so easy to trick. The Witch is very excitable and talks in a funny way — she uses expressions like “My foot!” I read one chapter loud to Jemma. Here’s the beginning of it:


One day the witch said,
“ I will fool those little kids. I’m hurrying.”
And then she hurried down to the store.
Um, she said.
What do you want?’ said the ghost, for it was the ghost store.
I want to buy some apples.
Do you have to?
Yes I need them! she shouted.
So they gave her a bag of rotten apples.
For Pete’s sake! said the witch.Of all the crazy things...

Jemma always likes those stories (they are funny, though I guess I shouldn’t say so myself) and she laughed quite a lot. Then she found the Merry-Go- Round she painted in kindergarten.

“Oh, my merry-go-round!” Jemma said. “Look, Lib!”

“I see — it’s one of your best, I think,” I said.

It was painted — not colored, and not water-colored, but painted in all different colors on a huge piece of heavy paper.

“It was in the newspaper and on the wall at school,” she said.

“I know,” I said. “Let’s put it on the wall here.”

The wallpaper isn’t pretty — the background is in between flesh colored and pale brown; the pattern is cowboys and cactuses. It was in the house when we moved in, and my mother says they’re going to get new wallpaper someday.

“We’ll have to ask,” Jemma said.

“I know.”

Our mother keeps the Scotch-tape hidden, because when you take it OFF the wall, it makes a mess — paint peels, wallpaper rips.

“Maybe she’ll let us tape it to the window.”

Then we found an old coloring book of Jemma’s, with horses on the cover. It is a very beautiful picture: the horses are all different colors, colors that real horses are — browns and blacks and greys and whites and chestnuts and palominos, and they’re all galloping; the leader is rearing. It’s Out West, with mountains on either side and in the background.

We were looking at this coloring book — NOT coloring, though Jemma was holding a crayon, when our mother came back with a wastebasket.

“We have been looking,” I said quickly. “We just haven’t found anything we can throw out yet.”

She sat down on the bed and said she’d supervise. Usually, that means that she does most of whatever it is; but when we sort, she just watches. Slowly, we went through the papers; when I found something of Jemma’s, I gave it to her, and when she found something of mine, she gave it to me. We looked at a lot, but not much got thrown out. When Jemma put a picture of a dog face down on the rug, our mother said, kind of eagerly,

“Are you throwing that one away?”

Jemma said,

“No, it’s my best dog!”

And every time our mother asked her if she could throw something away, she said it was her best horse or house or whatever it was; and of course I couldn’t throw out PART of a story.

Then I found a stack of drawings on Daddy’s shirt cardboard, all of people and all done with just one color crayon (purple). They all had smiling faces, and no bodies — their arms came out of their ears, and the legs (or skirts) started right under the heads. That was how I used to draw people when I was little. I knew while I was drawing them that there was something wrong — I still remember how relieved and proud I was when I figured out what. I put all of these pictures in my lap.

“Couldn’t you get rid of some of those, Libby?” our mother said.

“Well, maybe some,” I said. They do all look alike.

“Why don’t you pick out the three or four you like best and throw the others away?”

While I was trying to choose, Jemma picked up a big pile of papers and underneath it I saw —

“My Annie Oakley paper doll book!” I said. “I’ve been wondering where this was — remember, Nancy Johnson gave it to me for my birthday and I never cut out ONE outfit: look, they’re all still in here. Even Annie Oakley is still here — where are the scissors?”

“I thought you didn’t like paper dolls,” our mother said.

It’s true that usually I don’t: if you make a mistake cutting out their faces, they look funny, and there’s not much you can do with them once they ARE cut out except put clothes on them and the clothes rip so easily, and the little flaps that are supposed to keep them on don’t work very well or else they fall off themselves. But the Annie Oakley cover showed Annie riding a galloping horse with her elbows sticking out. Inside were cowboy boots and buckskin jackets and cowgirl skirts and gun holsters — not the usual paper doll things.

“I like Annie Oakley,” I said. In a way, she’s better than Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone, because she was a girl and a great rider. And she was the best shot in the West.

Just then the phone rang and our mother went to answer it. She was gone for a long time and when she came back it had stopped raining.

“Can we go outside now?” I said.

She didn’t answer. She said,

“That was Daddy. He won’t be home for dinner tonight.”

He always comes home for dinner and we always all have it together.

“He has to go out with some people from the office and some — visitors from England.”

“Oh. Well — can we play outside now?”

She said we could, so we ran out and as soon as we were all together, I said:

“Let’s get to the very end today — when Rumplestiltskin comes back and the Queen guesses his name and Rumplestiltskin gets so mad. I’ll read it out loud: ‘...and in his anger he plunged his right foot so deep into the earth that his whole left leg went in; and then in rage he pulled at his left leg so hard with both hands that he tore himself in two.”

“I don’t see how we can do that,” Peg said.

“You could stamp your foot and fall down in a fit,” I said.

“That won’t be the same,” she said and Pat said:

“And how will the audience know Rumpletstiltskin is dead?”

“They can figure it out,” I said. “Anyway, the story doesn't say he's dead — why do we have to?”

But the others didn't agree and they were right. We had to do something dramatic and definite: but what? We thought of ideas until Kenny said he was sick of it. Then he jumped off the porch, skipping all the steps, stuck his arms out, and spun around, screaming. Peg and Jemma copied him.

I was watching them and wondering if there was a way we could make each other spin around — the way you spin on a swing when someone twists the chain really tight and then lets go — when Pat sat down on the grass next to me.

“The stage still looks too bare,” she said.

So we spent the rest of the afternoon making more scenery; but what, I wondered, would we do for an ending?


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